Stock watch: Matt Kemp stepping up

August, 7, 2014
Aug 7
12:32
PM PT

RISING

Streaking
Matt Kemp, RF: Where did all this power come from? Kemp hit eight home runs in his first 98 games and he has hit six in his last nine games. Since the All-Star break, Kemp is batting .344 with a 1.097 OPS. It’s a good thing the Dodgers didn’t trade him. With Adrian Gonzalez slumping and Hanley Ramirez only sporadically productive, his hot hitting has given the Dodgers what little middle-of-the-order production they’ve been getting, which isn’t much.

Dan Haren, RHP: Don’t count the big right-hander out just yet. Fans and media were clamoring for the Dodgers to yank him from the rotation and with perfectly justifiable logic. Haren had a 10.03 ERA over five starts, but he made some adjustments and dominated his old team, the Angels, Wednesday night. Haren needs to be practically perfect to succeed with his 87-mph fastball these days, but the minor tweaks – pausing in his delivery and mixing in more curveballs – look like promising starting points for a second-half revival. He did it last season.

Kenley Jansen, RHP: It looks like the ninth inning is in good hands. Opponents are batting .138 and Jansen has 11 strikeouts and just one walk since the All-Star break. His saves are scary at times, but his stuff is so overpowering he almost always gets the job done. On Wednesday, he had the tying run at second with nobody out and blew Mike Trout away with a 96-mph fastball right down the middle before mowing down Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, too.

FALLING

Slumping
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B: For a guy whose production is among the steadiest in baseball year to year, Gonzalez has been wildly streaky this season. It looked like he was turning his season around in July, but August has been grim. He’s 1-for-17 with one walk this month. If he doesn’t turn it around soon, Mattingly might want to consider using Kemp in the No. 3 spot in the lineup and shifting Gonzalez back to fifth.

Josh Beckett, RHP: The Dodgers landed veteran starter Roberto Hernandez from the Philadelphia Phillies in a waiver trade Thursday and, after Haren’s performance Wednesday, it looks like Beckett’s spot might be the one Hernandez eventually takes. Beckett clearly isn’t the same since he has been pitching with an injury to his left hip. He is 1-2 with a 6.55 ERA in his last five games. Every time he pitches, it taxes the Dodgers’ bullpen for days. He’s averaging less than 4 2/3 innings in those starts.

Hanley Ramirez, SS: Unless his value has fallen so far that he would return on a one-year deal, it would be absurd for the Dodgers to re-sign him at this point. His defense at shortstop has reverted to sub-par and the Dodgers have slick-fielding options in-house now. Plus, on the horizon is one of their best prospects, Corey Seager, who is batting .339 since arriving at Double-A Chattanooga. Oh, and Ramirez, who is finally healthy, is batting .194 since July 29. He’s not exactly helping his cause in free agency.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Yasiel Puig
BA HR RBI R
.301 15 66 88
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Gonzalez 25
RBIA. Gonzalez 112
RD. Gordon 90
OPSY. Puig .872
WC. Kershaw 20
ERAC. Kershaw 1.80
SOC. Kershaw 228